New English Translation
Introduction and God’s Election of Israel
2 “I have shown love to you,” says the Lord, but you say, “How have you shown love to us?”
4 Edom[h] says, “Though we are devastated, we will once again build the ruined places.” So the Lord of Heaven’s Armies[i] responds, “They indeed may build, but I will overthrow. They will be known as[j] the land of evil, the people with whom the Lord is permanently displeased. 5 Your eyes will see it, and then you will say, ‘May the Lord be magnified[k] even beyond the border of Israel!’”
The Sacrilege of Priestly Service
6 “A son naturally honors his father and a slave respects[l] his master. If I am your[m] father, where is my honor? If I am your master, where is my respect? The Lord of Heaven’s Armies asks you this, you priests who make light of my name! But you reply, ‘How have we made light of your name?’ 7 You are offering improper sacrifices on my altar, yet you ask, ‘How have we offended you?’ By treating the table[n] of the Lord as if it is of no importance. 8 For when you offer blind animals as a sacrifice, is that not wrong? And when you offer the lame and sick,[o] is that not wrong as well? Indeed, try offering them[p] to your governor! Will he be pleased with you[q] or show you favor?” asks the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. 9 “But now plead for God’s favor[r] that he might be gracious to us.”[s] “With this kind of offering in your hands, how can he be pleased with you?” asks the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
10 “I wish that one of you would close the temple doors,[t] so that you no longer would light useless fires on my altar. I am not pleased with you,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “and I will no longer accept an offering from you. 11 For from the east to the west my name will be great among the nations. Incense and pure offerings will be offered in my name everywhere, for my name will be great among the nations,”[u] says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. 12 “But you are profaning it by saying that the table of the Lord is common and its offerings[v] despicable. 13 You also say, ‘How tiresome it is.’ You turn up your nose at it,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “and instead bring what is stolen, lame, or sick. You bring these things for an offering! Should I accept this from you?”[w] asks the Lord. 14 “There will be harsh condemnation for the hypocrite who has a valuable male animal in his flock but vows and sacrifices something inferior to the Lord. For I am a great king,”[x] says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “and my name is awesome among the nations.”
The Sacrilege of the Priestly Message
2 “Now, you priests, this commandment is for you. 2 If you do not listen and take seriously[y] the need to honor my name,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will send judgment[z] on you and turn your blessings into curses—indeed, I have already done so because you are not taking it to heart. 3 I am about to discipline your children[aa] and will spread offal[ab] on your faces,[ac] the very offal produced at your festivals, and you will be carried away along with it. 4 Then you will know that I sent this commandment to you so that my covenant[ad] may continue to be with Levi,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. 5 “My covenant with him was designed to bring life and peace. I gave its statutes to him to fill him with awe, and he indeed revered me and stood in awe before me. 6 He taught what was true;[ae] sinful words were not found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and integrity, and he turned many people away from sin. 7 For the lips of a priest should preserve knowledge of sacred things, and people should seek instruction from him[af] because he is the messenger of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. 8 You, however, have turned from the way. You have caused many to violate the law;[ag] you have corrupted the covenant with Levi,”[ah] says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. 9 “Therefore, I have caused you to be ignored and belittled before all people to the extent that you are not following after me and are showing partiality in your[ai] instruction.”
The Rebellion of the People
10 Do we not all have one father?[aj] Did not one God create us? Why do we betray one another, thus making light of the covenant of our ancestors? 11 Judah has become disloyal, and unspeakable sins have been committed in Israel and Jerusalem. For Judah has profaned[ak] the holy things that the Lord loves and has turned to a foreign god![al] 12 May the Lord cut off from the community[am] of Jacob every last person who does this,[an] as well as the person who presents improper offerings to the Lord of Heaven’s Armies!
13 You also do this: You cover the altar of the Lord with tears[ao] as you weep and groan, because he no longer pays any attention to the offering nor accepts it favorably from you. 14 Yet you ask, “Why?” The Lord is testifying against you on behalf of the wife you married when you were young,[ap] to whom you have become unfaithful even though she is your companion and wife by law.[aq] 15 No one who has even a small portion of the Spirit in him does this.[ar] What did our ancestor[as] do when seeking a child from God? Be attentive, then, to your own spirit, for one should not be disloyal to the wife he took in his youth.[at] 16 “I hate divorce,”[au] says the Lord God of Israel, “and the one who is guilty of violence,”[av] says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. “Pay attention to your conscience, and do not be unfaithful.”
Resistance to the Lord through Self-deceit
17 You have wearied the Lord with your words. But you say, “How have we wearied him?” Because you say, “Everyone who does evil is good in the Lord’s opinion,[aw] and he delights in them,” or, “Where is the God of justice?” 3 1 “I am about to send my messenger,[ax] who will clear the way before me. Indeed, the Lord[ay] you are seeking will suddenly come to his temple, and the messenger[az] of the covenant, whom you long for, is certainly coming,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
2 Who can endure the day of his coming? Who can keep standing when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire,[ba] like a launderer’s soap. 3 He will act like a refiner and purifier of silver and will cleanse the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then they will offer the Lord a proper offering. 4 The offerings[bb] of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in former times and years past.
5 “I[bc] will come to you in judgment. I will be quick to testify against those who practice divination; those who commit adultery; those who break promises;[bd] and those who exploit workers, widows, and orphans,[be] who refuse to help[bf] the resident foreigner[bg] and in this way show they do not fear me,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
Resistance to the Lord through Selfishness
6 “Since, I, the Lord, do not go back on my promises,[bh] you, sons of Jacob, have not perished. 7 From the days of your ancestors you have ignored[bi] my commandments[bj] and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. “But you say, ‘How should we return?’ 8 Can a person rob[bk] God? You are indeed robbing me, but you say, ‘How are we robbing you?’ In tithes and contributions![bl] 9 You are bound for judgment[bm] because you are robbing me—this whole nation is guilty.[bn]
10 “Bring the entire tithe into the storehouse[bo] so that there may be food in my temple. Test me in this matter,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “to see if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out blessing for you until there is no room for it all. 11 Then I will stop the plague[bp] from ruining your crops,[bq] and the vine will not lose its fruit before harvest,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. 12 “All nations will call you blessed, for you indeed will live in[br] a delightful land,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
Resistance to the Lord through Self-sufficiency
13 “You have criticized me sharply,”[bs] says the Lord, “but you ask, ‘How have we criticized you?’ 14 You have said, ‘It is useless to serve God. How have we been helped[bt] by keeping his requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord of Heaven’s Armies?[bu] 15 So now we consider the arrogant to be blessed; indeed, those who practice evil are successful.[bv] In fact, those who challenge[bw] God escape!’”
16 Then those who respected[bx] the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord took notice.[by] A scroll[bz] was prepared before him in which were recorded the names of those who respected the Lord and honored his name. 17 “They will belong to me,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “in the day when I prepare my own special property.[ca] I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. 18 Then once more you will see that I make a distinction between[cb] the righteous and the wicked, between the one who serves God and the one who does not.
- Malachi 1:1 tn The Hebrew term מַשָּׂא (massaʾ, “pronouncement”) is derived from the root נָשָׂא (nasaʾ, “to lift”) and probably connected to the phrase “to raise one’s voice” (HALOT 639 s.v. II מַשָּׂא), that is, the message that was raised or called out. See the note at Isa 13:1. The form may be absolute or construct. If absolute, the term stands alone (so NAB, NRSV), if construct it would be joined with what follows, “the burden [or “revelation”] of” (so KJV, NASB, ESV). Since the following phrase is a synonym, it is likely absolute, in apposition to “the Lord’s message.”
- Malachi 1:1 tn There is some question as to whether מַלְאָכִי (malʾakhi) should be understood as a personal name (so almost all English versions) or as simply “my messenger” (the literal meaning of the Hebrew). Despite the fact that the word should be understood in the latter sense in 3:1 (where, however, it refers to a different person), to understand it that way here would result in the book being of anonymous authorship, a situation anomalous among all the prophetic literature of the OT.
- Malachi 1:3 tn Heb “and I loved Jacob, but Esau I hated.” The context indicates this is technical covenant vocabulary in which “love” and “hate” are synonymous with “choose” and “reject” respectively (see Deut 7:8; Jer 31:3; Hos 3:1; 9:15; 11:1).
- Malachi 1:3 tn Heb “his”; the referent (Esau) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
- Malachi 1:3 tn Heb “I set his mountains as a desolation.”
- Malachi 1:3 tn Or “inheritance” (so NIV, NLT).
- Malachi 1:3 tn Heb “jackals of the wilderness.”
- Malachi 1:4 sn Edom, a “brother” nation to Israel, became almost paradigmatic of hostility toward Israel and God (see Num 20:14-21; Deut 2:8; Jer 49:7-22; Ezek 25:12-14; Amos 1:11-12; Obad 10-12).
- Malachi 1:4 sn The epithet Lord of Heaven’s Armies occurs frequently as a divine title throughout Malachi (24 times total). This name (יְהוָה צְבָאוֹת, yehvah tsevaʾot), traditionally translated “Lord of hosts” (so KJV, NAB, NASB; cf. NIV NLT “Lord Almighty”; NCV, CEV “Lord All-Powerful”), emphasizes the majestic sovereignty of the Lord, an especially important concept in the postexilic world of great human empires and rulers. For a thorough study of the divine title, see T. N. D. Mettinger, In Search of God, 123-57.
- Malachi 1:4 tn Heb “and they will call them.” The third person plural subject is indefinite; one could translate, “and people will call them.”
- Malachi 1:5 tn Or “Great is the Lord” (so NAB; similar NIV, NRSV).
- Malachi 1:6 tn The verb “respects” is not in the Hebrew text but is supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons. It is understood by ellipsis (see “honors” in the preceding line).
- Malachi 1:6 tn The pronoun “your” is supplied in the translation for clarification (also a second time before “master” later in this verse).
- Malachi 1:7 sn The word table, here a synonym for “altar,” has overtones of covenant imagery in which a feast shared by the covenant partners was an important element (see Exod 24:11). It also draws attention to the analogy of sitting down at a common meal with the governor (v. 8).
- Malachi 1:8 sn Offerings of animals that were lame or sick were strictly forbidden by the Mosaic law (see Deut 15:21).
- Malachi 1:8 tn Heb “it” (so NAB, NASB). Contemporary English more naturally uses a plural pronoun to agree with “the lame and sick” in the previous question (cf. NIV, NCV).
- Malachi 1:8 tc The LXX and Vulgate read “with it” (which in Hebrew would be הֲיִרְצֵהוּ, hayirtsehu, a reading followed by NAB) rather than “with you” of the MT (הֲיִרְצְךָ, hayirtsekha). The MT (followed here by most English versions) is to be preferred because of the parallel with the following phrase פָנֶיךָ (fanekha, “receive you,” which the present translation renders as “show you favor”).
- Malachi 1:9 tn Heb “seek the face of God.”
- Malachi 1:9 tn After the imperative, the prefixed verbal form with vav conjunction indicates purpose (cf. NASB, NRSV).
- Malachi 1:10 sn The rhetorical language suggests that as long as the priesthood and people remain disobedient, the temple doors may as well be closed because God is not “at home” to receive them or their worship there.
- Malachi 1:11 sn My name will be great among the nations. In what is clearly a strongly ironic shift of thought, the Lord contrasts the unbelief and virtual paganism of the postexilic community with the conversion and obedience of the nations that will one day worship the God of Israel.
- Malachi 1:12 tn Heb “fruit.” The following word “food” in the Hebrew text (אָכְלוֹ, ʾokhlo) appears to be an explanatory gloss to clarify the meaning of the rare word נִיב (niv, “fruit”; see Isa 57:19 Qere; נוֹב, nov, “fruit,” in Kethib). Cf. ASV “the fruit thereof, even its food.” In this cultic context the reference is to the offerings on the altar.
- Malachi 1:13 tn Heb “from your hand,” a metonymy of part (the hand) for whole (the person).
- Malachi 1:14 sn The epithet great king was used to describe the Hittite rulers on their covenant documents and so, in the covenant ideology of Malachi, is an apt description of the Lord.
- Malachi 2:2 tn Heb “and if you do not place upon [the] heart”; KJV, NAB, NRSV “lay it to heart.”
- Malachi 2:2 tn Heb “the curse” (so NASB, NRSV); NLT “a terrible curse.”
- Malachi 2:3 tc The phrase “discipline your children” is disputed. The LXX and Vulgate suppose זְרוֹעַ (zeroaʿ, “arm”) for the MT זֶרַע (zeraʿ, “seed”; hence, “children”). Then, for the MT גֹעֵר (goʿer, “rebuking”) the same versions suggest גָּרַע (garaʿ, “take away”). The resulting translation is “I am about to take away your arm” (cf. NAB “deprive you of the shoulder”). However, this reading is unlikely. It is common for a curse (v. 2) to fall on offspring (see, e.g., Deut 28:18, 32, 41, 53, 55, 57), but a curse never takes the form of a broken or amputated arm. It is preferable to retain the reading of the MT here.
- Malachi 2:3 tn The Hebrew term פֶרֶשׁ (feresh, “offal”) refers to the entrails as ripped out in preparing a sacrificial victim (BDB 831 s.v. פֶּרֶשׁ). This graphic term has been variously translated: “dung” (KJV, RSV, NRSV, NLT); “refuse” (NKJV, NASB); “offal” (NEB, NIV).
- Malachi 2:3 sn See Zech 3:3-4 for similar coarse imagery which reflects cultic disqualification.
- Malachi 2:4 sn My covenant refers to the priestly covenant through Aaron and his grandson Phinehas (see Exod 6:16-20; Num 25:10-13; Jer 33:21-22). The point here is to contrast the priestly ideal with the disgraceful manner in which it was being carried out in postexilic times.
- Malachi 2:6 tn Heb “True teaching was in his mouth”; cf. NASB, NRSV “True instruction (doctrine NAB) was in his mouth.”
- Malachi 2:7 tn Heb “from his mouth” (so NAB, NASB, NRSV).
- Malachi 2:8 tn The definite article embedded within בַּתּוֹרָה (battorah) may suggest that the Torah is in mind and not just “ordinary” priestly instruction, though it might refer to the instruction previously mentioned (v. 7).
- Malachi 2:8 tn Or “the Levitical covenant.”
- Malachi 2:9 tn Heb “in the instruction” (so NASB). The Hebrew article is used here as a possessive pronoun (cf. NRSV, NLT).
- Malachi 2:10 sn The rhetorical question Do we not all have one father? by no means teaches the “universal fatherhood of God,” that is, that all people equally are children of God. The reference to the covenant in v. 10 as well as to Israel and Judah (v. 11) makes it clear that the referent of “we” is God’s elect people.
- Malachi 2:11 tn Or perhaps “secularized”; cf. NIV “desecrated”; TEV, NLT “defiled”; CEV “disgraced.”
- Malachi 2:11 tn Heb “has married the daughter of a foreign god.” Marriage is used here as a metaphor to describe Judah’s idolatry, that is, her unfaithfulness to the Lord and “remarriage” to pagan gods. But spiritual intermarriage found expression in literal, physical marriage as well, as vv. 14-16 indicate.
- Malachi 2:12 tn Heb “tents,” used figuratively for the community here (cf. NCV, TEV); NLT “the nation of Israel.”
- Malachi 2:12 tc Heb “every man who does this, him who is awake and him who answers.” For “answers” the LXX suggests an underlying Hebrew text of עָנָה (ʿanah, “to be humbled”), and then the whole phrase is modified slightly: “until he is humbled.” This requires also that the MT עֵר (ʿer, “awake”) be read as עֵד (ʿed, “until”; here the LXX reads ἕως, heōs). The reading of the LXX is most likely an alteration to correct what is arguably a difficult text.tn Heb “every man who does this, him who is awake and him who answers.” The idea seems to be a merism expressing totality, that is, everybody from the awakener to the awakened, thus “every last person who does this” (NLT similar); NIV “whoever he may be.”
- Malachi 2:13 sn You cover the altar of the Lord with tears. These tears are the false tears of hypocrisy, not genuine tears of repentance. The people weep because the Lord will not hear them, not because of their sin.
- Malachi 2:14 tn Heb “the Lord is a witness between you and [between] the wife of your youth.”
- Malachi 2:14 sn Though there is no explicit reference to marriage vows in the OT (but see Job 7:13; Prov 2:17; Ezek 16:8), the term law (Heb “covenant”) here asserts that such vows or agreements must have existed. References to divorce documents (e.g., Deut 24:1-3; Jer 3:8) also presuppose the existence of marriage documents.
- Malachi 2:15 tn Heb “and not one has done, and a remnant of the spirit to him.” The very elliptical nature of the statement suggests it is proverbial. The present translation represents an attempt to clarify the meaning of the statement (cf. NASB).
- Malachi 2:15 tn Heb “the one.” This is an oblique reference to Abraham who sought to obtain God’s blessing by circumventing God’s own plan for him by taking Hagar as wife (Gen 16:1-6). The result of this kind of intermarriage was, of course, disastrous (Gen 16:11-12).
- Malachi 2:15 sn The wife he took in his youth probably refers to the first wife one married (cf. NCV “the wife you married when you were young”).
- Malachi 2:16 tc The verb שָׂנֵא (saneʾ) appears to be a third person form, “he hates,” which makes little sense in the context, unless one emends the following word to a third person verb as well. Then one might translate, “he [who] hates [his wife] [and] divorces her…is guilty of violence.” A similar translation is advocated by M. A. Shields, “Syncretism and Divorce in Malachi 2, 10-16, ” ZAW 111 (1999): 81-85. However, it is possible that the first person pronoun אָנֹכִי (ʾanokhi, “I”) has accidentally dropped from the text after כִּי (ki). If one restores the pronoun, the form שָׂנֵא can be taken as a participle and the text translated, “for I hate” (so NAB, NASB, NRSV, NLT). sn Though the statement “I hate divorce” may (and should) be understood as a comprehensive biblical principle, the immediate context suggests that the divorce in view is that of one Jewish person by another in order to undertake subsequent marriages. The injunction here by no means contradicts Ezra’s commands to Jewish men to divorce their heathen wives (Ezra 9-10).
- Malachi 2:16 tn Heb “him who covers his garment with violence” (similar ASV, NRSV). Here “garment” is a metaphor for appearance and “violence” a metonymy of effect for cause. God views divorce as an act of violence against the victim.
- Malachi 2:17 tn Heb “in the eyes of the Lord.”
- Malachi 3:1 tn In Hebrew the phrase “my messenger” is מַלְאָכִי (malʾakhi), the same form as the prophet’s name (see note on the name “Malachi” in 1:1). However, here the messenger appears to be an eschatological figure who is about to appear, as the following context suggests. According to 4:5, this messenger is “Elijah the prophet,” whom the NT identifies as John the Baptist (Matt 11:10; Mark 1:2) because he came in the “spirit and power” of Elijah (Matt 11:14; 17:11-12; Lk 1:17).
- Malachi 3:1 tn Here the Hebrew term הָאָדוֹן (haʾadon) is used, not יְהוָה (yehvah, typically rendered Lord). Thus the focus is not on the Lord as the covenant God, but on his role as master.
- Malachi 3:1 sn This messenger of the covenant may be equated with my messenger (that is, Elijah) mentioned earlier in the verse, or with the Lord himself. In either case the messenger functions as an enforcer of the covenant. Note the following verses, which depict purifying judgment on a people that has violated the Lord’s covenant.
- Malachi 3:2 sn The refiner’s fire was used to purify metal and refine it by melting it and allowing the dross, which floated to the top, to be scooped off.
- Malachi 3:4 tn Or “gift.”
- Malachi 3:5 tn The first person pronoun (a reference to the Lord) indicates that the Lord himself now speaks (see also v. 1). The prophet speaks in vv. 2-4 (see also 2:17).
- Malachi 3:5 tn Heb “those who swear [oaths] falsely.” Cf. NIV “perjurers”; TEV “those who give false testimony”; NLT “liars.”
- Malachi 3:5 tn Heb “and against the oppressors of the worker for a wage, [the] widow and orphan.”
- Malachi 3:5 tn Heb “those who turn aside.”
- Malachi 3:5 sn Cf. Exod 22:21; Lev 19:33-34; Deut 10:18-19; 24:14, 17; 27:19; Jer 22:3; Zech 7:10.
- Malachi 3:6 tn Heb “do not change.” This refers to God’s ongoing commitment to his covenant promises to Israel.
- Malachi 3:7 tn Heb “turned aside from.”
- Malachi 3:7 tn Or “statutes” (so NAB, NASB, NRSV); NIV “decrees”; NLT “laws.”
- Malachi 3:8 tc The LXX presupposes an underlying Hebrew text of עָקַב (ʿaqav, “deceive”), a metathesis of קָבַע (qavaʿ, “rob”), in all four uses of the verb here (vv. 8-9). The intent probably is to soften the impact of “robbing” God, but the language of the passage is intentionally bold and there is no reason to go against the reading of the MT (which is followed here by most English versions).
- Malachi 3:8 sn The tithes and contributions mentioned here are probably those used to sustain the Levites (see Num 18:8, 11, 19, 21-24).
- Malachi 3:9 tn Heb “cursed with a curse” that is, “under a curse” (so NIV, NLT, CEV).
- Malachi 3:9 tn The phrase “is guilty” is not present in the Hebrew text but is implied, and has been supplied in the translation for clarification and stylistic reasons.
- Malachi 3:10 tn The Hebrew phrase בֵּית הָאוֹצָר (bet haʾotsar, here translated “storehouse”) refers to a kind of temple warehouse described more fully in Nehemiah (where the term לִשְׁכָּה גְדוֹלָה [lishkah gedolah, “great chamber”] is used) as a place for storing grain, frankincense, temple vessels, wine, and oil (Neh 13:5). Cf. TEV “to the Temple.”
- Malachi 3:11 tn Heb “the eater” (אֹכֵל, ʾokhel), a general term for any kind of threat to crops and livelihood. This is understood as a reference to a locust plague by a number of English versions: NAB, NRSV “the locust”; NIV “pests”; NCV, TEV “insects.”
- Malachi 3:11 tn Heb “and I will rebuke for you the eater and it will not ruin for you the fruit of the ground.”
- Malachi 3:12 tn Heb “will be” (so NAB, NRSV); TEV “your land will be a good place to live in.”
- Malachi 3:13 tn Heb “your words are hard [or “strong”] against me”; cf. NIV “said harsh things against me”; TEV, NLT “said terrible things about me.”
- Malachi 3:14 tn Heb “What [is the] profit”; NIV “What did we gain.”
- Malachi 3:14 sn The people’s public display of self-effacing piety has gone unrewarded by the Lord. The reason, of course, is that it was blatantly hypocritical.
- Malachi 3:15 tn Heb “built up” (so NASB); NIV, NRSV “prosper”; NLT “get rich.”
- Malachi 3:15 tn Or “test”; NRSV, CEV “put God to the test.”
- Malachi 3:16 tn Or “fear” (so NAB); NRSV “revered”; NCV “honored.”
- Malachi 3:16 tn Heb “heard and listened”; NAB “listened attentively.”
- Malachi 3:16 sn The scroll mentioned here is a “memory book” (סֵפֶר זִכָּרוֹן, sefer zikkaron) in which the Lord keeps an ongoing record of the names of all the redeemed (see Exod 32:32; Isa 4:3; Dan 12:1; Rev 20:12-15).
- Malachi 3:17 sn The Hebrew word סְגֻלָּה (segullah, “special property”) is a technical term referring to all the recipients of God’s redemptive grace, especially Israel (Exod 19:5; Deut 7:6; 14:2; 26:18). The Lord says here that he will not forget even one individual in the day of judgment and reward.
- Malachi 3:18 tn Heb “you will see between.” Cf. NRSV, TEV, NLT “see the difference.”